The Detroit Red Wings have been looking for a Joe Veleno 2.0 model, with the enhanced scoring component. They received a glimpse of it Tuesday night in a 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks.
Veleno netted pair of goals and looked like the player the Red Wings hoped he would be when they drafted him in the first round in 2018. With the Red Wings eight days from opening the season, there’s hope Veleno might be ready for an expanded role.
“Joe Veleno’s play I thought was really good,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “It’s not even the two goals. I thought he was sharp away from the puck, thought he had some pop to his game and a good experience.”
Veleno clearly understands he needs to increase his offensive production. But when he talked to the media Tuesday morning, it wasn’t about improving on last season’s 20 points. It was being a better all-around player.
“I think all areas of the game,” Veleno said. “I definitely want to take another step forward, improve on being better defensively. Obviously like to produce more than I did last year. Overall, just taking a bigger step in my overall game and being better in all situations.”
In other words, he’s not going to be less defensive to improve offensively . It’s about finding a balance.
“What I mean by producing more is just being in better spots on the ice, being in better positions in the offensive zone, getting to those hard areas and getting a couple of extra goals in front of the net,” Veleno said. “Obviously, I don’t want to cheat the game. By all means it’s not my style of game. I definitely want to be on the right side of the puck and being strong defensively. I guess being good defensively will transition to more touches with the puck. Being better in my zone will lead to better offense.”
When it comes to creating offense, Veleno’s plan is “getting more puck touches in general.” That’s probably the path to earning a move to a scoring line or some time on the power play. Veleno has the skill to accomplish those objectives.
But likely he will start the season in the bottom six, maybe playing alongside feisty Klim Kostin and Christian Fischer. Veleno showed increased pluckiness last season with 151 hits. If Veleno creates more offense, his playing time will rise. In the meantime, that line can create havoc.
“I think we’re a pretty big line and can definitely use our size as an advantage,” Veleno said. “We also could bring a little bit of skill. Klimmer and Fisch had good years last year. They got some hidden talent in there. We’re a big line and can use that to our advantage, wearing teams down in the offensive zone and cycling the puck and being strong on the puck.”